In my last couple of columns, I have written about ways to pull casing with a cable-tool rig. This type of drilling, of course, drives the casing tight into the ground. Pulling it can prove rather difficult.

Other pulling methods I have discussed use the rig itself but in this column I write about a simple, and rig-less, method: brute force. A heavy steel or cast ring goes around the casing and grips it with tapered slips held by the ring itself. Manufacturers supply these rings and slips in several sizes and types.

One manufacturer I know of makes casing rings in three capacities:

  • The light pattern works for many water wells. Two sizes handle 6-inch pipe down to 2-inch pipe, depending on the slips. These rings weigh from 70 to 110 pounds. This style or pattern of casing ring can be used with two 10-ton jacks.
  • They designed the regular pattern to cover the majority of water wells — and it could probably work in oil and gas drilling, too. This pattern comes in many sizes and handles pipe from 24-inch OD down to standard 3-inch pipe (which is 3½-inch OD). These rings vary in weight from 175 pounds to 460 pounds and handle any normal-size pipe with the proper slips plus a bushing. This pattern of casing ring can be used with two 50-ton capacity jacks.
  • The heavy pattern casing ring, oddly enough, is limited to 20-inch OD pipe, or a couple sizes smaller than a regular pattern ring. With proper slips and bushings, it will go all the way down to standard 4-inch pipe (which is 4½-inch OD). This ring comes in six sizes that weigh from 275 pounds up to 1,080 pounds. This heavy pattern and the regular pattern are both equipped with handles on each side spaced 180 degrees apart, since moving them requires power equipment. The heavy pattern casing ring can be used with two 100-ton jacks.

Now no matter which pattern ring you use, you have to pull the casing with jacks. We had an extra-small casing ring limited to 2-inch pipe and we used it often to pull 1¼-inch stab wells. You would often see these shallow wells driven in basements — simply a 1¼-inch pipe screen attached to 1¼-inch pipe with heavy couplings. They were driven manually, with either a sledgehammer or a sliding weight. When the screen plugged on these wells, we would pull it using this light pattern ring with a couple 5-ton hydraulic jacks. We would attach a new screen and drive them back with a heavy gear on a slide for weight. Needless to say, this was hard work. While Michigan made these stab wells illegal, I suspect people still sneak them in at cabins and cottages in lower-populated areas.

We also had a ring that would handle 4-inch casing. We used it with a couple of 10- or 15-ton mechanical jacks (I don’t remember which). These jacks had a longer stroke than the hydraulic ones, but they were heavy and hard to use. As I remember, they had wooden handles about 6-feet-long and were difficult. We found bumping with the rig, with either a pulling plug or casing jars, about as effective and a lot easier on us.

Probably the best setup for pulling by the brute force method includes jacks that are equipped for use with a hydraulic pump powered by a separate engine. With one of these pumps, a driller can rig up, start pulling and watch the casing come slowly out of the ground.

Probably the best setup for pulling by the brute force method includes jacks that are equipped for use with a hydraulic pump powered by a separate engine. With one of these pumps, a driller can rig up, start pulling and watch the casing come slowly out of the ground.

Whatever the size of casing or method of raising it, you need a firm base under the jacks. We would put heavy timbers under those mechanical jacks. Even then, they sometimes pushed into the ground a ways. The kind of base you would need for a 100-ton jack is beyond my experience.

Think this method is outdated? You can still buy — in 2022 — casing jacks for operation by a hydraulic pump. You see them advertised in trade magazines, complete with a picture. While a slow and difficult process, using a casing ring works and is often necessary.

I try to keep this column professional and impersonal but I must recognize a couple of contractor friends who operate about 40 miles from me. R.M. Brewer and Sons Well and Pump Service in Parma, Michigan, is celebrating 100 years in the drilling business. This company, incidentally, uses cable-tool, although I understand they do mostly service work now. The grandson, Douglas, and great-grandson, Shaun, of the founder Roy Brewer operate the business today. They have, obviously, done things right to be in business that long. Congratulations, fellows!

We have had kind of hard going around our place lately. Both my wife and I had Covid-19 since my last column. We have recovered, but for me it was a terrible four days. If you had this virus, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, hope and pray that you don’t get it.

To compound things, a short but violent storm a week ago left much of the area — including us — without power. Our home relies on electric so we had no way to cook or cool the house with our geothermal heat pump. We did have enough water in the system to drink and brush our teeth. I have a non-pressured tank that holds about 40 gallons of well water and we used that to flush the toilets. You sure don’t realize how much electric power means to your life until you don’t have it.

Oh, yes, my infamous lawn looks nice and green and I mow it once a week. ’Til next time, I hope you have good luck if you pull casing and remember to work safely at all times.

A Lifetime in Drilling

We interviewed columnist and former NGWA President John Schmitt for our Drilling In-Site video series. Click here to hear him share his cable-tool expertise and wisdom earned with decades in the industry.

For more John Schmitt columns, visit